Voice Change (Hoarseness)


Hoarseness usually originates from some issue or disorder with the vocal cords (a part of the larynx or the voice box which is responsible for producing sounds). Hoarseness can be caused by many factors but it is rarely serious if it heals within a few days. However, if the hoarseness has gone on for two weeks, you should visit an ENT physician at the earliest to rule out larynx cancer.

Causes of Hoarseness


  • Common cold or upper respiratory tract viral infection
  • Voice abuse by talking loudly or excessively for long stretches of time
  • Gastroesophageal reflux wherein acidic stomach contents spill up the food pipe (oesophagus) and irritate the vocal folds
  • Smoking habit
  • Other health issues such as allergies, thyroid problems, neurological disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and voice box trauma

Symptoms


The voice becomes: –

  • Breathy
  • Raspy
  • Strained
  • Gets differently pitched or
  • Show different volume levels than usual

Precautions & Treatments


  • The following precautions can be taken to prevent hoarseness: –
        • Smoking is injurious not just to overall health; it is particularly bad for vocal cords as well. Quit smoking to keep the voice normal.
        • Those who have hoarseness should avoid exposure to passive or second-hand smoke even if they do not smoke themselves.
        • Hoarseness can also result from dehydration so drink water and other hydrating fluids but minimize consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
        • Use a humidifier at home to do away with dryness.
        • Avoid spicy foods.
        • Do not speak too loud and do not speak for long stretches in one go.
        • Go to an ENT specialist if the hoarseness persists.
  • The ENT surgeon will take the following steps to diagnose hoarseness: –
        • He will first take a detailed history of the hoarseness problem and overall health.
        • Then he will undertake a physical checkup of the voice box and its surrounding area using either a mirror or a laryngoscope which is a compact and flexible instrument with an in-fitted light that can be placed at the back of the throat.
        • Next, he will assess the voice quality.
        • Depending on the findings of the physical investigation, the ENT physician may prescribe simple precautions or ask for lab tests (e.g. biopsy), x-rays, or thyroid function testing.
  • The treatment for hoarseness depends on what has caused it. Following are some treatment strategies that a doctor may advise: –
        • In most cases, hoarseness can be relieved by resting the voice.
        • Smokers will be advised to quit smoking along with resting their voice.
        • Second-hand smoke is also to be avoided
        • If the investigations have revealed nodules or polyps on the vocal folds, the doctor may recommend a surgery.

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